Haj pilgrims in Aceh wave hands before embarking the plane for Saudi Arabia on July 20, 2019. (Antara Photo/Irwansyah Putra)
Indonesia Cancels Haj Season This Year
BY :MARIA FATIMA BONA
JUNE 04, 2021
Jakarta. Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas confirmed on Thursday there will be no haj pilgrimage from Indonesia this year amid uncertainties in Saudi Arabia concerning Covid-related entry restrictions.
The Saudi government has not lifted entry ban while there is little time to make preparations for hundreds of thousands of Indonesian pilgrims, he said.
“I realize this is a bitter decision for many, but at the same time is the best decision we have to take after thorough considerations,” Yaqut said in a video conference in Jakarta.
Allowing Indonesian Muslims to perform the annual ritual during the pandemic will put them at risk, especially when new, more transmittable variants of the virus have been confirmed in many countries, he added.
It’s the second year in a row that the haj season was canceled by the Indonesian government due to Covid-19.
During the normal time, Indonesia sends approximately 200,000 pilgrims to the holiest city of Mecca.
Before the cancelation was announced, the first flight carrying Indonesian pilgrims to Mecca was scheduled for June 15.
Anggito Abimanyu, the head of the haj finance management agency, said more than 196,000 Indonesian pilgrims already paid all expenses in full last year, totaling around Rp 7 trillion ($490 million).
In addition, around 1,500 pilgrims on special travel arrangement have deposited a total of $120 million, he added.
The Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, said they could understand the decision and support it.
“Religious Affairs Ministry’s decision to cancel haj pilgrimage this year is based purely on safety considerations because the global pandemic is not easing yet, so we appreciate that decision,” MUI Secretary-General Amirsyah Tambunan said in a press conference.
Millions of Indonesian Muslims have registered themselves for the pilgrimage -- an obligation for all Muslims who can afford it -- but limited quota from the Saudi government means that they have to wait in a very long queue.
Many of them have to wait for up to 10 years and another delay will further extend the waiting period.